The 2019 CAF Awards were held on Tuesday 8th at the Albatros Citadel Sahl Hasheesh Resort in Hurghada, Egypt to crown the best players on the continent.
Liverpool and Senegal star Sadio Mané edged teammate Mohamed Salah – winner in 2017 and 2018 – and Algeria attacker Riyad Mahrez to the prestigious award.
Head coaches/technical directors and captains of the senior national teams from CAF's member associations voted to see Mane selected as the continent's best footballer in 2019.
Sadio had an amazing 2019 but was he the best person to be crowned the CAF men's player of the year? I think not and believe Riyad Mahrez who helped Algeria to their second AFCON triumph. With due respect to the Senegalese forward and his achievements, 2019 was an AFCON year and that should be the biggest point of reference when choosing the player of the year.
Africa has a huge problem with inferiority complex and not the issue of the fans watching European football, It's a good product that the owners have worked so hard to perfect but how do you even expect the fans not to love European football more than African football when the best player in Africa is picked solely based on their performance in Europe.
Nothing wrong with appreciating what the players are doing in Europe but CAF has their own competitions and the most prestigious in AFCON. One would think a player's performance at an AFCON tournament will play a big role in him being crowned Africa's best player in that year but apparently, it is not.
In Europe where Africa copies almost everything, the player of the year always comes from a team that wins the UEFA Champions League. Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk won the 2019 UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award despite Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been the top goalscorer in the Champions League and in Europe overall plus winning La Liga.
For the Women’s category, Asisat Oshoala was named African Women’s Player of the Year for the fourth time and garnered 351 votes, 30 more than Cameroonian forward Ajara Nchout and Thembi Kgatlana, who had 247 votes.
However, Nchout was more instrumental at the World Cup for Cameroon and has helped them reach the final round of the 2020 CAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in which they will battle Zambia.
The winner will qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics, while the loser enters a play-off against a team from CONMEBOL, Chile.
The other shocking thing was seeing Joël André Matip making the team of the year yet the player retired from playing for the Cameroon national team back in 2017.
This is not, however, the first time these awards have been given to a 'wrong' player. Egyptian and African legend Mohamed Aboutrika has never won the accolade but has won everything that a player can win on this continent but maybe because he never played for a European team.
In 2008, Aboutrika lost the award to a player who never even qualified to AFCON in an AFCON year. The Egyptian legend won the AFCON with Egypt, CAF Champions League with Al Ahly, Egyptian premier league and Egyptian Super Cup plus was Egypt top goalscorer with 4 goals at AFCON (only second to Eto'o who had 5) and second top goalscorer for Al Ahly in Champions League. He also made it to the AFCON team of the tournament. BBC named him their 2008 African footballer of the year.
The player he lost to, Emmanuel Adebayor failed to make it to AFCON with his Togo teammates in a group that had Mali, Benin, and Sierra Leone. In 2007/08 EPL season, he scored 24 goals and the 2008/09 had 10 goals but won nothing for Arsenal and Togo.
This was the biggest injustice in the history of African football. Least we forget Yaya Toure won four straight awards (2011-2014) for playing in Europe. 2012 the award was supposed to be given to Stophila Sunzu, Rainford Kalaba or Christopher Katongo but Toure played for Manchester City at the time.
The Ivorian even had the audacity to throw a tantrum after he lost to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2015 because he felt he deserved to win the accolade having won the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.
“I’m very, very disappointed. It’s sad to see Africa react this way, that they don’t think African achievements are important,” he said to the French radio station RFI.
“I think this is what brings shame to Africa because to act in that way is indecent. But what can we do about it? Us Africans, we don’t show that Africa is important in our eyes. We favor more what’s abroad than our own continent. That is pathetic.”
For Africa to command respect, it must first respect itself. There is no way the BBC award looks more realistic than that which is handed out by the body that runs African football. CAF does not run EPL, La Liga or any of those leagues hence it should only come in as a last resort.
A player should be judged on AFCON, World Cup qualifiers, World Cup, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederation Cup then the respective league in which they play. Playing for Arsenal or Man City should not give undue advantage to a player to win the award ahead of the deserving player.
African you need to wake up and take your place at the world table but before then learn to respect yourself.
Congratulations to Sadio for his trophy well deserved 🙏🏼 and sorry I couldn't come but I had to start scoring for the 2020 trophy 😘😂 see you next year inch'Allah 🇩🇿 #CAFAwards2019 pic.twitter.com/AdomL38DoE— Riyad Mahrez (@Mahrez22) January 7, 2020